The expressive potential of the percussion ensemble has been a source of wonder and inspiration throughout my career. The incredibly wide range of sonorities inherent in the various percussion instruments challenged me to generate textures built around rhythmic and timbric patterns while avoiding conventional melodic and harmonic materials.
Written over a period of almost thirty years, the six works featured on this album display the whispers, rumbles, booms, roars, and reverberations that virtuoso percussionists manage to elicit from their instruments.
Dos Danzas (Two Dances) for percussion quartet comprises two complementary movements inspired by dance rhythms. Tango Lejano (Distant Tango) starts out slowly and quietly as if emanating from some remote location. While gong and cymbal sounds resonate in the background, various drums elaborate syncopated rhythmic motives that steadily increase in dynamics and complexity. Danza Rebelde (Rebellious Dance) is raucous and boisterous. Its complex rhythmic patterns and metric modulations progress frantically into the final rousing climax.
Rhythmic Soundscape No. 5 is a concerto for piano and percussion orchestra. Rhythm is both a fundamental structural element and the driving force behind the composition's musical discourse. The strategic deployment of rhythmic gestures generates feelings of tension, relaxation and direction.
The work is in three self-contained but interrelated movements. The opening Nocturne is lyrical, almost impressionistic. The percussion ensemble provides an atmospheric commentary to the incessant arpeggios in the piano. The second movement is a lively Dance built around transformations of the Afro-Caribbean clave pattern (332). The third movement contrasts the opposing sonorities of the piano and percussion ensemble. Anchored around two cadenza-like sections the first for piano and the other for percussion the rhythmic momentum builds relentlessly until the point where previously heard motivic materials reappear. A wistful angular melodic fragment introduced by the piano shepherds the listener into the vanishing, mysterious closing moments of the music.
Music for Percussion is not only the earliest composition of the collection, but also the one that employs the largest number of instruments. Over fifty are used, ranging from mallet instruments such as marimba and vibraphone, to timpani, flexitone and exotic Asian drums.
Again, rhythmic and timbric gestures predominate. Whispers the quiet first movement for three performers contrasts the spectral sounds of the vibraphone and marimba with those of an extended drum set. Loud and violent the second movement Provocations highlights a non-metered middle section surrounded by metered muscular outer sections. While shrieks and hollers may shock the listener at the outset, ethereal sounds obtained by a combination of crotales and bring the movement to a quiet close. Tempo plays a most important role in the last movement Repercussions. Its opening section punctuated by a dialogue between two flexitones fluctuates constantly among different tempi. The loud middle segment is non-metered and somewhat static while the concluding section features a contrapuntal texture made up of five different rhythmic lines moving simultaneously at different tempi. Exotic water jugs supply the vanishing closing sounds for the work.
Transformations No. 3 for solo marimba belongs to a series of compositions featuring solo instruments meant to provide the performer with ample opportunity for technical and musical display. The music exploits the contrasting registers of the marimba as well as its polyphonic capabilities. The music builds calmly around protracted transformations of the three-note gesture heard at the opening. The motive grows unrelentingly across the registers, gradually achieving rhythmic and metrical definition while becoming more vivacious and agitated. The final section recapitulates the opening idea strengthened by unexpected harmonic doublings.
Inner Pulse is a single-movement work that opens with a stately rhythmic gesture announced by the opening gong sounds. Relentless transformations of the opening gesture lead to the work's climax, providing the solo percussionist the opportunity to use the large array of instruments at his disposal. Onomatopoeic sounds broaden both the available timbric resources and the emotional impact of the music. An easily discernible return to the opening rhythmic motive brings the work to a close. A real tour de force, the music demands the utmost in virtuosity and endurance from the performer.
Pulsations features exclusively non-pitched instruments played by four percussionists. The music exploits the attack and decay characteristics inherent in the chosen instruments creating quasi-antiphonal effects. The first movement juxtaposes the undulating sounds of two cymbals played by the first and fourth percussionists with the percussive effects of the drums. The slow and mysterious opening speeds up and climaxes on three loud unison chords. The pulsating second movement is full of startling meter changes and metric modulations. It speeds up gradually, concluding with a recapitulation at a faster tempo The closing movement paraphrases previous ideas: while a low gongs substitutes for the higher cymbals of the first movement, modifications of the rhythmic motives used in the second movement gradually gain importance and intensity. Metric modulations push the speed of the music for the first half of the movement, but eventually are used to return to the opening slow tempo. An unexpected final flurry provides for the loud ending.